Photograph by Dave Lepori
Luck Puckers: Conway stole their name from the 'Mighty Ducks,' but thankfully not their sound.
On Their Way
Fast success has Conway scrambling
By Claire Taylor
AT A TIME when so many local bands have screaming singers who limply cradle poor, dead mics in their palms, thrashing around onstage with abandon, it's rare to find a local group performing solid pop-rock anymore—but then, few local groups are like Conway.
The San Jose quintet, whose name comes from the lead character Charlie Conway in the Mighty Ducks film trilogy (an inside joke related to a nickname for another Charlie, the band's bassist), is made up of Chris "CJ" Martinez, 26, on vocals and keys; Brandon Kwock, 24, on guitar and backing vocals; Ryan Robles, 20, on guitar; and brothers Charlie and David Adametz, 22 and 20, on bass and drums, respectively. The band is humble and personable, on and offstage, taking the time to respond to MySpace messages and chat with front-rowers in the audience between songs.
"We're not, like, looking to be rock stars," says Martinez, who, along with Kwock, was formerly in Plans for Revenge, a band that helped launch the local hardcore and screamo revolution—the antithesis of Conway's sound. "We had a lot of acclaim with the last band. We sold 300,000 records on our own without a label, " says Martinez. "[But] I'm getting older ... and I don't want to write that music anymore."
Kwock says Conway is hoping to "give the scene a new light."
Though Conway has only been together since January of this year, the band has made its mere months count, self-recording demos and playing only a handful of South Bay shows, including separate performances with national acts Augustana and Gatsby's American Dream, both at the Cave. On the flip side, the band's stage presence gives away its youth, with some members performing more aggressively than others and a clear sense that its songs still need those finishing touches that only come with time.
The group has also signed an album deal with San Francisco's Negative Progression Records, home to acts Amity and A Burning Water, as well as the now-defunct Counterfit, and is recording with Jerry Ososkie at Gordon Gurley's J31 Studios in San Jose. Gurley has produced records for local acts such as Sloe and Day One Symphony.
All of this for a band whose members say they are still working out the kinks, aiming to strike a balance between their desire to "rock off your face," as David Adametz puts it, and focusing on songs with melody.
"I usually try to tell a story with my writing," says Martinez, the band's primary lyricist. "I do try my hardest to write for my audience; I want to give them a story they can relate to and to share [my] feelings." Martinez says his words focus on common themes of death, love, friendship and betrayal.
The rest of the band members bring their own contributions to the table when it comes to the songs' arrangements, often in the way of riffs or short melodies.
"Once the idea's down, it's just like all of us are building the puzzle," Adametz says.
Things remain a bit of a puzzle for the band musically, as they try to mesh the varied sounds of each of its members into one solid unit.
"I think what we sound like is something that we're still trying to figure out," says Martinez.
Robles agrees, saying that the process of recording and choosing songs for the band's first album has forced them to question the musical path they want to take. "One of the struggles so far with the CD is finding a bunch of songs that all work with each other and are all cohesive—because we have some songs that are really pop-oriented and then others that are a little harder, and still others that are more electronic sounding," he says.
With the record contract looming, the band is facing a balancing act between trying to crank out enough new material to fill an album within a short span of time while still creating a quality product that each of the members is happy with. Compound that with a fledgling band still trying to find a unified sound and style along with producing a live show worthy of audience members' repeat attendance—not to mention purchasing of T-shirts, forthcoming CDs and other merch—and it's enough to make any band become bipolar.
But David Adametz says that the hurried pace of putting together Conway's upcoming album, along with the prospect of a national tour next year, brings a heightened feeling of excitement to the project.
"I think it motivates us ... [to know] we're writing for an album that's going to be released in stores," he says.
While the phrase "too much, too fast" comes to mind, Conway is taking this rush of attention in stride, its members fitting in practicing, shows and recording around their work and school schedules with the hope of one day being able to support themselves through performing.
"We don't want to work," says Kwock. "We just want to work at writing music and playing music every day; we don't want to be at a 9-to-5, in an office or waiting on tables."
This love of playing and creating (and disdain for working) is what drives the band members to put their dreams of recording and touring at the forefront of everything they do. "We want to write songs with melody, give kids something to sing along with," says Martinez. "I just want to write music, that's all. I'm just happy—content—writing music."
Conway's debut album is tentatively scheduled for release in May of next year. The band is slated to play various upcoming Bay Area shows, including a date with Park and Brilliant Red Lights at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Nov. 1 and a holiday show at the Wrec in Saratoga on Dec. 15. The band's website is www.myspace.com/conwaymusic.
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